Cornerstone | Some of The City’s Most Exquisite Seafood
At Cornerstone, Tom Brown is building his idea of the perfect seafood restaurant from the ground up.
See, it doesn’t involve eye-wateringly expensive silver platters of langoustines. There are no crisp white tablecloths, or tiny forks you’re not really sure what to do with. And it’s not by the sea – or, even, as you might expect from a Michelin-starred restaurant, in central London.
It’s in Hackney Wick.
Cornerstone occupies a breezy, industrial styled space on the ground floor of one of the area’s new apartment blocks. Reflecting its setting, the place has a pared-back feel, but not at the expense of warmth – deep teal walls wrap the space, with midcentury-style furnishings, Victorian zoological sketches and the odd antique barometer circling a (remarkably calm) open kitchen. It’s just a short walk from the station, but – on a weekday night at least – feels like it sits in a quiet, residential patch of the area. What a thrill, then, to discover this island of activity tucked away in plain sight: a winning combination of upbeat atmosphere, first-class service, and exceptional cooking.
Of course, chef Tom Brown’s got plenty to draw on when it comes to experience: he spent a good few years as head chef at Nathan Outlaw’s Michelin-starred London outpost (whose restaurants have four Stars between them). Hailing from Cornwall probably hasn’t hurt either. And his approach to seafood is refreshingly original, soaking up inspiration from wherever he goes, and pouring it back into a regularly changing menu where each dish is strikingly different to the last.
Cornerstone’s menu gives you the option to order à la carte, or leave it up to the chef to send his pick of the day’s best catch your way (served to share, and great value for the quality at £75pp). And right from the off, they hit the ground running, from crumbly gougères oozing with melted cheese and tuna, to pickled oysters, dressed in a tart combination of horseradish and dill.
Then there are the raw dishes, which fully showcase the quality of the catch. Sea bream is served like beef tartare, topped by an egg yolk, but is also drenched in a ponzu sauce with chilli oil and furikake (that moreish dusting of sesame, dried fish and seaweed) that gives it a powerful Japanese kick. On the other end of the flavour scale is the cured gurnard, a pretty and delicate dish set in a subtle vichyssoise (leek & potato soup). That the team can turn out dishes that are both punchy and elegant is testament to their collective skill. And impressively, given the variety between courses, environmental consciousness is built in, from the sustainably-farmed cured chalk stream trout (aged for a month and gloriously firm in texture) right down to the olive oil infused with crab shells, reducing waste and ensuring that even your sourdough is given a kiss from the coast.
Depending on what the boats haul in, you might then tuck into dishes like cuttlefish cacio e pepe, or hake Kyiv with a dollop of café de Paris butter. But the highlight on our last visit had to be the crab bun; a lip-smacking assemblage of umami-heavy crab, swiss chard kimchi, and a pear & peanut dipping sauce, sandwiched by a bronzed and crispy bao-style bun.
You can wash all this down with some excellent wines – try the Bianca from Lombardy, a white made with red Barbera grapes – or the relatively dry Sauternes, which also makes its way into the ice cream served with the rhubarb & custard tart to finish…
…and that’s the scoop.
NOTE: Cornerstone is open for dinner Tues-Sat and lunch Wed-Sat. You can find out more, and make a booking on their website right HERE.
Cornerstone | 3 Prince Edward Road, Hackney Wick, E9 5LX
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